My first son was born in January 2002 by emergency caesarean section under general anaesthetic (GA). The reason given was foetal distress due to placental abruption. I was given a GA in theatre after I appeared distressed when the incision was made, and the next thing I remembered was waking up in the observation room to see my husband holding our beautiful baby boy.
The shock of having a caesarean did not hit me until a long time afterwards I had never even imagined that I might end up with one, and certainly not under GA. I knew no one who had gone through this and consequently didn't have anyone to discuss it with. I was too busy dealing with the shock of recovering from major surgery, a general anaesthetic and the mind blowing experience of first time motherhood to dwell on things too much, so I put the birth experience to the back of my mind while I focused on being a mummy.
I fell pregnant with my second son in May 2004. Having already had one caesarean meant being placed under consultant care, which turned out to be a positive experience because I got the chance to discuss the birth of my first son in depth. Interestingly enough, this was also the first time that myself and my husband had really talked about the birth in detail.
The consultant put the first section down to a case of 'bad luck' and encouraged me to try for a VBAC, giving me a 70-80% chance of success. I felt very positive about things and was convinced that I would get my VBAC. As she left the room, I even remember her saying "you are definitely due some luck this time..."
I had a good second pregnancy, but when baby showed no signs of appearing, I was booked in for an induction at 40 weeks + 12 days. Thankfully, I went into spontaneous labour on the morning I was due to be induced, and felt strangely optimistic that this would be a 'good' labour. At 3.30 am the following day, after almost 20 hours and a pretty ineffective epidural, the midwife announced chirpily that she had "good news", and that I must be "nearly there" as she could see the amniotic sac emerging, still intact, which indicated that the baby@s head was behind it. I honestly thought it was almost over and that I had done it.
However, after a further examination, the midwife looked confused and told me that she had felt two eyes and a nose. A consultant was quickly called...then another...and another, and a scan confirmed I had only reached 6 cm and my baby was in fact, face presenting. This seemed of particular interest to the consultants as it is apparently rare (0.2% of births). Furthermore, he was "mento posterior" (which relates to the position of the chin), thus my chances of delivering naturally were very slim. One consultant gently told me that they would have to perform another c-section.
On being told this, my initial feelings were a mixture of disbelief (could this really be happening again?), and disappointment (why had my body failed me again?), but also a certain sense of relief. I remember looking at the clock (4 am) and thinking that I would probably see my baby within the half hour. I also remember asking time and time again about the baby's neck, as I was concerned about the pressure being put on it. I was anxious to get him out.
This time, the caesarean was a much calmer experience than my first. My baby was not in distress at any point during the labour and I was able to remain awake during the birth and experience it all with my husband. I remember sobbing with relief as my baby was passed to me, another beautiful son, and totally unscathed apart from a bruise around the neck and forehead, both of which faded within hours...
Time has passed and Louis is now nearly six months old. I am recovering from the surgery quite well, (although somewhat slower than before due to having a toddler to deal with as well) and I am loving life with my two little boys. However, having had to endure a second c-section has raised certain nagging questions, leaving a lot of issues still unresolved in my head.
A lot of people ask me why I am so disappointed to have had two caesareans and why I am so keen to have a 'natural' birth. Of course the most important thing is that I have two healthy children I don't think any caesarean mum would dispute that fact. What is hard to explain to anyone who has not gone through the experience of a section is the sense of feeling 'let down' by your own body. I frequently wonder why it was not capable of achieving what women have been achieving for centuries, and feel as if I am 'missing out' on an important element of the childbirth experience.
And if that isn't enough to deal with on its own, I seem to find myself constantly trying to 'justify' my caesareans to people "Yes, I had another caesarean...but there was no choice really. It was out of my hands". Well, the truth is, whatever the reason, I shouldn't have to justify to anyone that I wanted to get my baby out safely.
The fact of the matter is, there is, and probably always will be, a stigma attached to caesareans. Some people don't know how to react when I tell them, but the most common reaction is sympathy. "Never mind... that's a shame".
But what do people really think? Maybe she got a bit tired.. or was it just hurting too much... maybe I'll ask for one next time as well... If I opt for an elective caesarean next time, does that mean that people will think that I am not going to even bother trying?
Before having gone through it myself, I too, was probably guilty of regarding caesareans as the easy option. This was partly due to media portrayal('too posh to push') but mainly due to a certain ignorance of what was involved - the reasons for needing a caesarean can be traumatic in themselves, and are usually the sign of a stressful and traumatic labour. The extent of the surgery and the length of the recovery period have also been a big shock to me. But perhaps the hardest thing that I have had to deal with is the excess emotional baggage that comes with a caesarean, which goes beyond the scar.
We may well have another child, and if we do, I have not ruled out the option of a VBAC - I was quite surprised at the negative reactions I received from health professionals when mentioning it to them (I remember a midwife telling me that I would be "unwise not to have an elective next time") but have finally found a consultant who says she will support me if I decide to try for a VBAC. She had actually bothered to research the facts.
Maybe I will choose an elective caesarean next time - I am not sure that either me or my husband could stand the stress of another emergency caesarean. If I do opt for this, it won't be an easy decision to make and it certainly won't be the 'easy option'.
© Bridget 2004